Residents Make Headway On Sakubva River Rehab

Sharon Chigeza


MUTARE- The state of Sakubva River has over the years continued to be a deathbed for
aquatic life with solid and sewer waste being the major pollutants rendering it highly
intoxicated and unable to support any form of life.
Mutare Rivers Rehabilitation Initiative, a Mutare resident’s voluntary group has taken
responsibility for rehabilitating polluted rivers and wetlands in the city of Mutare with a
major thrust on bringing Sakubva River back to its former glory.
For many years, the delicate balance between the rate of pollution and its eventual
decomposition was maintained, and the river survived. However, the deterioration of
Sakubva River has not been overnight, but is the result of decades of neglect, in which the
river became the sewage canal for industrial and agricultural waste and the dumping ground
for municipal garbage.
With the urban expansion taking its toll in the city, rapid development of industry and
agriculture took priority over environmental concerns. Over time, damage to rivers and
streams became a serious problem that had to be treated before the situation became
Mutare Rivers Rehabilitation Initiative volunteer, Kasirayi Karombedzera said it is time
residents use their constitutional right to protect the environment and look at environmental
issues with a lens that considers future generations.
“We have to take a new look at rivers not just as a line of water flowing from east to west,
from the mountains to the sea, but as the source of livelihoods for future generations to come.
It is everyone’s responsibility to look after the environment and not just the law enforcers,”
he said.
Karombedzera said notable progress had been made in the Sakubva rehabilitation despite
resistance by some urban farmers who are adamant on stream bank cultivation.
“The rehabilitation process is continued throughout the year and the initiative has made
tremendous progress in marking out the stipulated 30 metre distance from the banks as well
as planting of indigenous tress to restore ecological balance,” he said.
Every Tuesday, volunteers, called the ‘Tuesday Team’ embark on several activities such
perimeter marking, pollutant removal, scenic restoration, soil conservation, tree planting and
wetland protection aimed at restoring Sakubva River back to its natural state.
The River Rehabilitation Initiative has also partnered Africa University in water sampling to
identify the major contaminants of the river and trace their sources.
Having started the initiative late last year, Karombedzera said the road to recovery for the
river was a long and arduous one that required patience and co-operation with residents.

“The damage of years cannot be corrected in days, weeks or even years. In order to rectify
the situation and restore the river to its former glory, we need a long-term outlook and a
multi-stakeholder approach. The local authority should weigh in on by enforcing the city by
laws and work closely with the Environmental Management Authority to ensure residents
abide by the law,” he said.
He added that the first step was simple rehabilitation by eliminating pollutants and reviving
the damaged ecosystem, and then bring in various stakeholders capable of bringing the
initiative to national scale as the country works in line with the National Development
Strategy 1(NDS1) to achieve an upper middle class economy by year 2030.
“With the right doses of research, planning and resource allocation, Sakubva River can once
again achieve its full potential as a vital ecological system and as sources of pleasure and
recreation for residents and tourists alike. In order for all this to happen however, river
rehabilitation must be recognised as a vital, high-priority project on a national level and the
starting point is within the communities we live in,” he added.
Lynne James, a volunteer in the initiative said the successful rehabilitation of the river needs
concerted efforts by the public as the main objective is to improve the livelihoods of those
living within the vicinity of the river.
“Success cannot be achieved without the blessing of the public. Without their cooperation,
the best plans will fail, and without their environmental awareness, any solution will be short-
lived,” she said.
“In some cases residents living in the river vicinity are highly motivated and involved, and
wish to actively participate in rehabilitation. This should be encouraged, even when the site in
question is not necessarily high-priority on a national scale.”
Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Manicaland education and publicity officer
Alice Rutsvara said such initiatives were a positive development as it showed that
communities were increasingly becoming aware of their environment and the need to protect
their water sources and wetlands.
Such initiatives are a plus to the agency as it shows that communities are now taking an
upper hand in protecting their own water sources and wetlands. It shows that communities are
now conscious of their surroundings and we applaud such environmental stewardship,she
Rutsvara said the agency was working together with the City of Mutare as the relevant
authorities to assist such groups in terms of law enforcement.
Such groups are usually made us volunteers offeringbtheir services to the community and
are bound to face challenges with regards to enforcement in communities. Mutare Rivers
Rehabilitation Initiative has engaged us and we have been working with such groups together
with the City of Mutare to help with regards to law enforcement where necessary.she added.

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